This Is Why You Should Skip the Drive-Thru at Starbucks

The majority of Starbucks customers use the drive-thru...but are they really saving time? Turns out, the smart Starbucks customer goes inside.

When you’re hitting Starbucks for your coffee fix, it’s easy to assume that using the drive-thru will be quicker than heading inside. After all, you don’t need to park, get out of your car and walk inside. Drive-thrus are designed to be convenient and efficient…but are they really?

Is the Starbucks Drive-Thru Really Faster?

The surprising answer? No! Most of the time, using the Starbucks drive-thru is slower than going inside. Plus, the drive-thru has other drawbacks that could spoil your morning cuppa.

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Expect a Longer Wait

It’s actually no secret that Starbucks’ drive-thru is on the slow end. According to Bloomberg.com, Starbucks trails behind competitors like Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s for drive-thru wait times. In fact, Starbucks customers typically wait 4.44 minutes at the drive-thru. Part of the reason is its popularity. As many as 70% of sales come from window orders—a huge percentage.

At my local Starbucks, I’ve often observed a long stream of cars heading directly to the drive-thru, even when the parking lot is virtually empty, a good indicator that there’s not a crowd inside. Most Starbucks have at least one worker who handles the cash register indoors. Ordering a drip coffee, which is ready immediately, means you can get in and out in a couple of minutes tops. Even an order for the espresso bar is quicker, since you skip the line outdoors.

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Mistakes Are More Frequent, Too

According to QSRMagazine.com, which focuses on the restaurant business, Starbucks’ drive-thru order accuracy and general customer experience scores were decidedly low. If you’re getting a caramel latte when you ordered a mocha, or even if they just forget to add cream, you’re definitely not going to enjoy that caffeine fix. For a better experience, avoid these bad habits in the drive-thru.

So, What’s the Absolute Fastest Way to Get My Drink?

The single best trick to a quick Starbucks trip? Use their app to place a mobile order, which will be waiting for you—inside.

More Perks of Going In

Still not convinced? There are other benefits to heading inside. If you take cream and sugar, heading inside ensures that you get just the right amount of each, something the baristas never quite nail. Furthermore, parking reduces car emissions, a win for the environment (and you don’t have to sit and wait in a cloud of car exhaust, either). Finally, that short walk does count toward your daily steps—every little bit counts!

Next up: Check out our ultimate guide to ordering coffee.

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Kelsey Rae Dimberg
A former in-house editor at Taste of Home, Kelsey now writes articles and novels from her home in Milwaukee. She's an avid cook, reader, flâneur, and noir fanatic. Her debut novel, Girl in the Rearview Mirror, will be published in June 2019 by William Morrow.